Flames from the Marshall fire reached within 4 feet of a highly flammable oxygen tank, seen on the left, at Avista Adventist hospital in Louisville on Dec. 30, 2021. Hospital staff fought back the flames using hoses. The oxygen system must be inspected and certified by the state before it can be used again. (Avista Adventist hospital)

Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville narrowly avoided a “catastrophic explosion” Thursday afternoon when flames from the Marshall fire came within 4 feet of flammable oxygen tanks on the hospital’s west side, hospital officials said.

Facilities staff fought back the flames with hoses, said Lindsay Radford, a spokeswoman for Centura Health, the network that includes Avista.

The hospital sustained extensive smoke damage and will be closed for the foreseeable future, Radford said.

The Colorado National Guard will help the hospital’s security team, and cleaning crews are assessing the damage. Other workers are checking the air quality in the facility and the “viability of surgical supplies,” and are replacing air filters.

Soot covered part of the ambulance bay and the medical surgical unit, which sustained the most smoke damage, but the hospital was not hit directly by fire.

“The high winds were driving the fire straight toward our hospital on the north side, so to return hours later and find no significant damage is truly a miracle,” said Isaac Sendros, chief executive officer for Avista Adventist Hospital.

The hospital is using diesel power generators to maintain boiler and heating systems, as natural gas has been cut off. 

Some hospital employees lost homes in the fire, Radford said.

Employees will work at other Centura hospitals while Avista is repaired. Facilities staff, who fought off the fire with the hose, will help with the cleaning and restoration. 

Centura is contacting patients with scheduled procedures to make adjustments.

“It’s going to be a massive endeavor,” Radford said.

The hospital evacuated 51 patients Thursday.

Shannon Najmabadi covered rural affairs and the rural economy for The Colorado Sun from 2021-2023.

Email: shannon@coloradosun.com Twitter: @ShannonNajma